NFL Week 15 Column

I’m not a gambling man (mostly because I’m only 20) but if I was, then I would have gained and lost a lot of money on Sunday. In my Pick ‘Em group, I was one of the few people who took the Jets to beat the Steelers and for the Ravens to beat the Saints and I was right about both. However, I also took the Dolphins over the Bills and the Bucs over the Lions and was wrong about both. I was also one of two people to pick the Panthers to win and one the only one who picked the Rams to beat the Chiefs because I didn’t get the memo that Matt Cassel was starting. Just goes to show you that anything can happen on Sunday. Last week, I talked about pessimistic fans and how they shouldn’t write their teams off when they still have a chance at the playoffs and I stand by it for most teams. There’s a few who are dead in the water now (Texans, Titans, Dolphins) but still many teams who control their own destiny to get into the playoffs. Yes, I’m referring to you pessimistic Packers fans. Despite losing two straight, all the Packers have to do to get into the playoffs is beat the Giants and the Bears. Easier said than done, but I think the Packers can do it with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. The Bears may not play their starters either since they have already clinched the North.

Speaking of which, who expected Chicago to win the NFC North this year other than Bears fans? I sure didn’t with how that division looked at the beginning of the year. Yes, they’ve gotten lucky a lot of times and played bad in a lot of their wins but they are still 10-4 and their defense is good enough to get them deep into the playoffs. That said, if they end up playing the Giants in the first round of the playoffs, which could happen, then they aren’t going to be very happy after what happened the first time. Any team that is able to get pressure from their front 4 like New York does is going to be a nightmare for Chicago with that offensive line. However, if the Bucs can sneak in then it wont be too bad of a matchup for them with how banged up Tampa Bay is. Their other option could be a Green Bay rematch in the first round, which will be highly entertaining and could go either way. I may have to withhold judgment for that game until two weeks but I still think Green Bay’s offense can play Chicago well but injuries to Green Bay’s secondary and poor special teams play might doom them. Who knows, though? The Bears were one of the league’s biggest disappointments last year and are now one of the league’s biggest surprises.

Conversely, the Vikings are one of the league’s biggest disappointments even though I saw them regressing a bit. There was no way Brett Favre was going to have the kind of year he had last year but I didn’t see him being this terrible. Injuries to Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and a poor secondary definitely led to the Vikings struggles this year, not to mention poor coaching. Oh, and I still can’t believe they haven’t placed Brett Favre on the IR yet. Not only are we all sick of him but I’m starting to get worried that he’s going to get killed on the field now. I actually thought he was unconscious when Chris Wooten sacked him and knocked him out of the game last night.  Thankfully, it was just a head injury. I hate Favre and wish he would go away but I don’t wish injuries upon any player no matter how annoying they are. That said, hopefully that game is the last we’ll see of Favre. The Vikings could be in the discussion for trading up to draft a QB this draft with how Joe Webb looked yesterday.

Okay, back to teams that actually matter, the Jaguars really missed a golden opportunity to take control of the AFC South this week but the Colts really picked them apart. Those who were doubting Peyton Manning a few weeks ago are really eating their words. Despite all of the other things wrong with the Colts, Manning has played the Jags enough times to know their weaknesses and was able to find holes all over that defense yesterday. Actually getting contributions from the running game helps too. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut and Donald Brown did that against Jacksonville with his first great game in awhile. It’s too bad that Austin Collie is probably done for awhile, though. Three concussions in a year is hard to come back from. I don’t think the Jags will be one of the teams looking for a QB next year because David Garrard did all he could to get his team back into the game. The running game was shut down (surprisingly) and the Jags were one onside kick away from having a chance to win. They still aren’t done in the AFC South but they’ll need a lto of help to win the division and get into the playoffs.

Like I said in my game picks, I thin every team in the NFC East has a contest as to who can make the biggest sideshow of themselves. The Redskins won that battle this week with Shanahan deciding to start Rex Grossman against Dallas, a move which looked awful at the start but didn’t turn out too bad for him. Sure, he threw a couple bad picks (you have to expect that from him, really) but Rexy also threw 4 TDs and led the Redskins to a 23 point comeback. I think this shows that the Redskins need to work on rebuilding that defense before anything else because they have been getting torched week in and week out. On the field, the Eagles and the Giants could tie for the biggest spectacle. Their game was filled with various coaching and mental mistakes and it looked like the Eagles were going to get blown out, then the Giants blew a 31-7 lead and lost the game on the last play, which was a punt return. It’s funny because I thought Mike Vick was exposed early on with how bad he was reacting to the Giants blitzes and not responding to pressure well. Then he turned into Superman again and just lit up the Giants D. Which led to one of the best endings to a game that I’ve seen in awhile.

This week was full of great games, actually. The Ravens-Saints game was a great test for both teams and I think it really put to rest the claims that the Ravens “can’t beat good teams.” They beat Pittsburgh and the Jets on the road and this win against the Saints was huge. They still have issues with sitting on leads in the second half but they did a nice job of finishing off the Saints on the last drive. Usually I think any team that gives Drew Brees more than a minute to work a comeback is doomed by that was not the case. That was also the first time I saw Ray Rice back in his 2009 form, he was a monster. I still think the Saints are going to be tough to deal with in the playoffs even if they don’t win the South. Especially since it looks like they’ll play whoever wins the NFC West in the playoffs. A division where the champion wont have a record above . 500. Ouch.

Best Team Performance: Colts

They needed this win and they got it with a solid win against the Jaguars. Gets them some separation in the division and they control their own destiny for making the playoffs. Also one of the few times where their running game actually showed up.

Runners up: Bears, Eagles, Ravens, Raiders

Top 5 Offensive Players of the Week:

1. Ray Rice 31 car 153 yards TD, 5 rec 80 yards, TD

Ray Rice’s explosiveness was one thing that was somewhat missing from the Ravens offense this year but that definitely changed this week. I have to give credit to the Ravens coaching for game planning well against the Saints defense. The Saints have a strong secondary and fast defensive ends and you can easily beat that with a versatile back like Rice. They kept giving him the ball and using him in the passing game and it paid off. 233 total yards and 2 TD’s for Rice.

2. Mike Vick 21/35 242 yards 3 TD, INT; 10 car 130 yards TD

The leader of the Eagles huge comeback against the Giants on Sunday. The turnovers were bad but what he did in the 2nd half of that game was remarkable. It’s amazing how much life he can add to an Eagles offense which suffers from anemic playcalling. He makes things happen and could be what gets the Eagles over the edge. It’s just a matter of how much the other teams can gameplan for him. The Bears were able to shut him down and the Giants looked like they were going to but Vick found a way to get past them. He is a straight up stud.

3. Peyton Manning 29/39 229 yards 2 TD

Like I said earlier, he picked apart the Jaguars defense and led his team into control of the AFC South. Great leaders can take control of their teams in times of adversity and Peyton did just that.

4. Jason Witten 10 rec 140 yards TD

Witten’s been one of the consistently good players on the Cowboys and there’s no doubt that he’s one of the best tight ends in the league. Kitna being the QB makes him more effective if teams leave him open because utilizing tight ends is one of the things Kitna’s always been good at.

5. Mario Manningham 8 rec 113 yards 2 TD

One of the overlooked stats from that game. Him and Eli torched the Eagles secondary in the first half of that game. Hakeem Nicks has been getting more targets this year which made the Eagles put a weaker corner on Manningham, they paid the price big time in the first half.

Runners up: Jamaal Charles, Jonathan Stewart, Kenny Britt, Chris Johnson, LaGarrette Blount, Cedric Benson, Jay Cutler, Calvin Johnson, Tim Tebow, Jason Campbell, Donald Brown

Defensive Player of the Week: Drew Coleman 1o tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles

During the Jets losing streak, it got overlooked that Rex Ryan can still gameplan teams very well defensively and Coleman having the day he had proved that. The Jets linebackers were struggling to get pressure so he used the team’s corners to blitz the Steelers weak offensive line and get to Big Ben. 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Sounds like a solid day at the office.

Runners up: Demarcus Ware, Darryl Smith, Jarrett Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Arthur Moats, Jason Babin

Worst Team Performance: Cardinals

Whenever your team struggles to move the ball against the Panthers and loses to them, that earns you a spot in this feature.

Runners up: Vikings, Dolphins

Worst Offensive Player of the Week: Matt Hasselbeck 10/17 71 yards 2 INT

That stat line isn’t what earned him this honor, it was getting benched in favor of Charlie Whitehurst. Hasselbeck can’t really blame injuries for his struggles this year and it’s looking like his days are numbered in Seattle and possibly in the NFL in general. I think eh could make a good mentor/backup for other teams but as a starter, he’s definitely finished.

Runners up: Cardinals running backs, Arian Foster, Ricky Williams

Game of the Week: Giants-Eagles

A lot of choices this week but I had to go with this one since it was one of the most thrilling comebacks and endings I’ve seen in awhile.

Runners up: Packers-Patriots, Saints-Ravens, Jets-Steelers, Redskins-Cowboys

Worst Game of the Week: 49ers-Chargers

Man, I’m glad I had to study and didn’t watch this game on Thursday night because it looked very ugly. What’s scary is that the 49ers aren’t dead in the NFC West title race yet. Yeah, I’m serious. IT’s too bad that if they win it, they’ll lose out on a high draft pick.

Idiot of the Week: Matt Dodge

Really, all he had to do was kick the ball out of bounds and the Giants would have had a better chance to win that game. Instead, he boots a line drive to DeSean Jackson and it’s returned all the way back. I’m surprised he didn’t get cut weeks ago after constantly dropping snaps and line driving punts.

Runners up: Bruce Arians, Brian Cushing, Dan Henning, Fox for their their over-dramatic music, Washington media


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